Peopled Out: Managing Overstimulation for Introverts, Empathic, and Neurodiverse Folks

By Rachel Puryear

For those of us who are introverts, empathic/HSP people, and otherwise neurodiverse; we can have a rather complicated relationship with most of our fellow humans.

On the one hand, we tend to try to be kind and patient with other people – and we tend to disapprove when others are less courteous and thoughtful than we would have been, though our disapproval is often quiet.

On the other hand, we can get pretty drained and weary of other people after a while, and sometimes need time to ourselves (or with just a few very special people) to recharge.

When the latter happens, we can feel pretty “peopled out,” and overestimated with sensory overload. How are some ways that introverted, empathic/HSP, and other neurodiverse people can manage this?

Stressed out young man sitting at computer, surrounded by several people talking to him at once.

Know the Signs of Social Exhaustion

As you get closer and closer to your limit on socializing, you might notice at least some of these signs:

  • You’re getting increasingly tired.
  • Your energy levels are low.
  • You’re feeling more irritable.
  • You’re having trouble focusing.
  • Your mood is getting depressive, or anxious, or you’re having stronger reactions than normal.
  • You’re having headaches, digestive symptoms, or an overall unwell feeling.
  • You’re getting detached from what’s going on around you, perhaps escaping into your mind and fantasy world.

These signs can get increasingly intense as you get more and more socially exhausted. Some people may have other signs, as well.

Setting Boundaries

Even introverts are not immune to their fair share of FOMO – that is, fear of missing out.

We also tend to like to make others happy.

Therefore, we often say yes to more social obligations than are sometimes ideal for us.

This can lead, however, to more social burnout – if we are going to too many social events, especially the kind with more people and more social pressure.

Being selective about which ones we really want to attend can help us better enjoy the ones we do attend, and be at our best there – and, let’s face it, that’s really best for all others who will be around us, too.

Preparing Yourself for Extra Tiring Situations

Some events will be extra tiring, even as social events go.

Such events can include ones with large amounts of people, events where we will be expected to talk to lots of people, events where we will have to socially perform (can’t just be ourselves, and need to behave a certain way) – such as a professional event, or perhaps certain family events; and so forth.

If you’ve got such an event coming up soon, it can help to get extra rest before, meditate, and perhaps come up with a plan if you get overwhelmed (scope out quiet, low-key places when you can).

Also, plan for taking a little break afterwards – avoid scheduling too much back to back, try to get a more low-key day the following day if possible, and plan to be a little socially hungover the day after, perhaps.

Scheduling Down Time

Getting needed down time can easily become something we’ll “get around to” someday – but if we’re not proactive about making time for it in our calendars, it can easily get squeezed out by lots of other of life’s obligations.

Pick dates and times. Write it down. Stick to it. Otherwise, it just won’t get done.


Starfish on a sandy beach, near the water and waves. By Pedro Lastra.

There are things you can do to help soothe your overstimulation, feel better, and recharge your personal batteries. Here are a few that many people like you often find helpful:

  • Meditating.
  • Catching up on some sleep.
  • Artistic pursuits, including writing, drawing, playing music.
  • Laying down in a darkened room with a damp washcloth over your forehead – this can help you feel better if you’re overstimulated to the point where you’re unwell.
  • Spending time connecting with someone who’s close to you, and you feel really comfortable with – but it has to be someone who you feel better after being around, not worse.
  • Spending time with animals and pets.
  • Self-care – relaxing, cooking, exercising, home spa time, gardening, whatever helps you feel more grounded.
  • Spending time outdoors, and in nature.
  • Take a break from social media – sure, it’s fun, but it can also be as tiring as in-person interaction. You don’t have to give it up, but a little break from it now and then can help if you’re getting peopled out.
  • Seek help if you’re struggling a lot – if you find yourself struggling to be around people even after taking a break, having trouble leaving your home, or having a lot of social anxiety; getting some professional help might be needed.

Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to better managing getting peopled out. If you enjoyed this content and want to see more of it, please hit “like” and subscribe, if you have not done so already. xoxo

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